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Director Column

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Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director's monthly column featured in Cattleman Magazine. Archives

Dan Loy in The Cattleman Magazine


January 2022

Beef Industry Innovations from ISU

In the process of preparing to host the 2021 Beef Improvement Federation Symposium, we had the opportunity to showcase some of the innovations that have been developed for the beef industry at Iowa State University. Here are a few of those innovations.

Steroid implants in beef cattle. Beef cattle steroid implants are arguably the technology that, more than any other, improves beef efficiency, reduces resource use and returns more per dollar invested . The first growth stimulant hormone technology was developed by Dr. Wise Burroughs here at Iowa State. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was the first FDA approved growth stimulation hormone for cattle. First approved as an oral supplement,in 1954, DES was later approved as an implant in 1957. More than 1,000 cattle feeders came to the Cattle Feeder’s Day at ISU to learn about the innovation in 1954. Eli Lilly founded the company, Elanco, to market DES. At its peak, DES was used in over 80% of fed cattle. Oral DES was removed from the market in 1972 and the implant in 1973 by the FDA due to some residues in the liver and reported health issues in women treated with very high doses of DES during pregnancy. Steroid implants are still common today, but with other active ingredients.

Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs). Dr. Richard Willham is known as the father of EPDs in the beef industry. His work in the development of EPDs at ISU follows the legacy of Dr. Jay Lush who is often referred to as the father of modern scientific animal breeding, Jay Lush used his work at Iowa State to advocate for making genetic selection and breeding decisions based on numbers rather than performance. Dr. Willham later built on Lush's legacy, the dairy industry's Predictive Differences, and developed Estimated Progeny Difference, or EPD. For seedstock and commercial producers, EPDs are critical for their mating decisions. Later, Dr. Dorian Garrick who served as the Lush Chair in Animal Breeding at ISU pioneered methods of associating genomics with traits of importance in the beef industry.

Real time ultrasound. The use of real time ultrasound to evaluate carcass composition was pioneered by several research groups, but the methods and model for estimating intramuscular fat was developed at Iowa State in 1990’s by Dr. Doyle Wilson and Dr. Gene Rouse. Ultrasound technologies are able to provide a fast, accurate estimate of carcass composition and traits like marbling. This technology has widely adopted by the seedstock industry and has contributed the a major improvement of beef quality nationally over the past 15-20 years.

Events for you
January is packed full of educational events for you. We hope to see you at the Feedlot Forum in Sioux Center, the Cornbelt Cow-Calf Conference in Ottumwa, the Drifltess Region Beef Conference in Dubuque and the Three-State Beef Conference in Greenfield. Also look for upcoming marketing workshops in February and March, the UNL/ISU Silage Conference, and of course, Beef Quality Assurance certification sessions. Also, we have a new supply of our popular calving books! Let us know if you need one.

We look forward to truly seeing you at one of the major beef events in January. While nothing is ever certain other than change, we are hopeful to a return to a somewhat more normal meeting schedule and presence in 2022. One characteristic I have learned that the beef industry excels in is optimism.


The IBC at Iowa State University serves as the university’s extension program to cattle producers. Our center comprises a team of faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. We work together to develop and deliver the latest in research-based information to improve the profitability and vitality of Iowa’s beef industry. If you’d like to be notified of updates on progress of research projects or programs that might be coming to your area, please subscribe to our “Growing Beef” newsletter by following the link on our website, If you have a question, use the “Ask our Experts” link on the website. Also, feel free to call us at 515-294-BEEF or email us at You can also follow @iowabeefcenter on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and now, AgFuse!